Pledge of Allegiance

views updated May 23 2018


PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE. The Pledge of Allegiance developed as part of a promotional campaign in the 1890s by the editors of The Youth's Companion, a popular weekly magazine published in Boston. Its purpose was to encourage patriotic education by placing the flag in the public schools and standardizing a flag salute. The original version, called "The Youth's Companion Flag Pledge," was published on 8 September 1892 and read "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and ["to" added here the following month] the Republic for which it stands: one Nation, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all." The Pledge was a collaboration between James P. Upham, a junior partner of the magazine's publishing company, and his assistant, Francis M. Bellamy, a Baptist minister whose socialist ideas had lost him his pulpit. Disagreement persists over who should be considered its author, but two research teams—one by the United States Flag Association in 1939 and another by the Library of Congress in 1957—gave Bellamy the honor. The widespread popularity of the Pledge began with its central place in the nationwide school ceremonies associated with the first Columbus Day celebration, held in conjunction with the dedication on 19 October 1892 of the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, marking the four-hundredth anniversary of Columbus's landing. National Flag Conferences in 1923 and 1924 agreed that the words "my flag" should be specified as "the flag of the United States" (and soon after "of America"). Congress eventually adopted the Pledge as part of an official flag code in 1942.

In 1935, members of the Jehovah's Witnesses began challenging regulations requiring compulsory recitation of the Pledge, insisting that the ceremony of allegiance contravened biblical injunctions opposing worship of a graven image. While the 1940 Gobitis case was unsuccessful before the U.S. Supreme Court, that body reversed its decision in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette (1943) when it ruled that citizens could not be forced to confess their loyalty. In 1953, the House of Representatives, at the urging of the Knights of Columbus, introduced a resolution to add the words "under God" to the Pledge. President Dwight D. Eisenhower supported this revision and signed it into law on Flag Day, 14 June 1954. Dissenters (including a 2002 California court of appeals) argued that the change violated the First Amendment clause that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." The Pledge has long been widely memorized by school children and plays a prominent role in naturalization ceremonies. Its thirty-one words read: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands—one nation, under God, indivisible—with liberty and justice for all."


Baer, John W. The Pledge of Allegiance, A Centennial History, 1892–1992. Annapolis, Md.: Free State Press, 1992.

Brandt, Nat. "To the Flag." American Heritage 22, no. 4 (June 1971): 72–75, 104.

Rydell, Robert W. "The Pledge of Allegiance and the Construction of the Modern American Nation." Rendezvous 30, no. 2 (Spring 1996): 13–26.


See alsoFlag of the United States ; Flags ; Loyalty Oaths .

Pledge of Allegiance

views updated Jun 08 2018

Pledge of Allegiance (in the US) a solemn oath of loyalty to the United States, declaimed as part of flag-saluting ceremonies, composed by the American clergyman and editor Francis Bellamy (1856–1931).